A platform is both a software product and an ecosystem that enables growth. Unlike a conventional software product, which includes all of its own tools and features, a platform is designed as a framework that can be connected to external tools, teams, data, and processes. Think of it as the “Evernote for social networking” or a “Square for payments.”

Platforms create value by connecting multiple groups to exchange resources in a dynamic and scalable way. This value could be economic (as in transaction fees) or social (like community building and content sharing). And because they are digital, platforms can scale quickly without sacrificing performance.

The challenge is in understanding how to make a platform work for your business. It starts with clearly defining your value and how you create it. If your company’s primary value is facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers, for example, then you might need a marketplace model. If you want to build trust, you might need a trusted platform model. Apple’s strict developer guidelines and Airbnb’s reputation for promoting trustworthy properties are both examples of trusted platforms.

Once you know your value and how to create it, the next step is finding a way to attract users to your platform. There are a variety of strategies, but all require some degree of governance and policing. For example, recruiting a marquee user to seed the platform and draw new users can backfire if that user usurps control of the system’s governance. platform